Saturday morning, during the defense’s unit meeting at the team hotel, Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables spent a lot of time going over the game, not the Tigers’ game with Charlotte that night, but the game of football.
“We spent a lot of time on respecting the game, respecting the preparation, respecting the process, respecting the opponent and not cheating the game,” Venables said. “It helps a lot of guys grow up and understand you play at a high level over a long period of time and what that looks like.”
The defense definitely looked like it respected the game Saturday at Clemson’s Death Valley. The top-ranked Tigers dominated the 49ers’ high-flying offense, holding them 37 points and 300 yards below their season average in a 52-10 victory.
“We (coaches) do all the talking most of the time, so to get them to have some ownership on how you go out and play in a game like tonight and play at a high level … Again, there are plenty of things we have to work on and correct, but I think our guys were really mentally, physically and emotionally wise were really ready to play,” Venables said. “That is pleasing because that is really what it is ultimately about, what defines you. Are you a sometime-er? Are you a guy that just shows up for the big games? Or are you a guy that shows up all the time? That is the mark of a great player.”
Clemson (4-0, 2-0 ACC) played 111 players overall on Saturday, half of those on defense. And, as Venables hoped, there was no drop off in production when the third- and fourth-team defenders were on the field.
Charlotte (2-2, 0-0 C-USA) entered the contest averaging 47.3 points, 296.7 rushing yards, 225.7 passing yards and 522.3 total yards per game. The Tigers held the 49ers to 10 points and 216 total yards (153 rushing, 63 passing).
“We told our guys up to this point, believe it or not, this is the best running offensive line we have seen up to this point,” Venables said. “They have really good backs, but the one in particular (Benny LeMay) is an excellent player. They know how to hat it up. They have a bunch of multiple things going on at once and a lot of wing-T principles, even on third-and-15.
“So, it kind of keeps you out of your normal third-down packages. It is hard to know because they have done both. They will drop back and sling it around, too. So, to just get a beat on what they wanted to do … they had some stuff presentation wise that was new. Our guys handled it pretty good and responded. But we have plenty of things to fix. We said a week ago, we are a work in progress. We have to get better fundamentally, and we have to be more physical in certain spots. I thought in a different kind of way, it was a great test for us.”
Venables enjoyed watching all the young and reserve players get so much playing time on Saturday. But he also loved the way they played to the standard when they got into the game.
“I think it is all the same, but in different ways, but in many ways the same because those guys are grinding all the time,” he said. “They probably surprise you a little bit, their ability to go out an execute, make plays, it is a great opportunity for them.
“Again, it gives you confidence too as a coach. Obviously, it develops them, it develops depth and it gives both them and the coaches confidence when they go out and execute.”
Film study will be a lot more fun on Monday.
“It will be the first time all year they will be showing up to film study on their own,” Venables said jokingly. “They will want to come and see themselves. It will be a lot of fun going through the tape with the guys and watching those guys get around and make plays.”
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